On Netflix’s engrossing and intense new series Bloodline, which is part psychological thriller and part family drama, the eldest brother and black sheep of the Rayburn family, Danny (in a compelling performance by Ben Mendelsohn), returns home and begins to expose emotional demons that will threaten to tear the family apart. From creators Todd A. Kessler, Daniel Zelman and Glenn Kessler (known as KZK), the strong cast of actors also includes Kyle Chandler, Linda Cardellini, Norbert Leo Butz, Sam Shepard and Sissy Spacek.
During a roundtable interview to discuss the new show, actress Linda Cardellini (who plays Meg Rayburn) talked about all of the mysterious elements to the show, learning about the skeleton of the story before they start shooting, how excited she is to see the finished product to check out her co-stars’ work, how she views this character, bonding with her cast, that Season 2 is a possibility, and that even though there will be a resolution to the story this season, there will be unanswered questions and new discoveries. Be aware that there are some spoilers.
Question: There seems to be a disconnect in the storytelling, between what we’re being told and what we’re seeing. Would you say that’s an accurate statement?
LINDA CARDELLINI: I learn something new about this show, every time I hear somebody else talk about it. The show is so mysterious and has so many mysterious elements to it that any piece of information is a map to other pieces of information. That is something I didn’t think about. That’s what’s so great about Ben’s performance, too. The way he plays it is as somebody so vulnerable.
While you were filming it, did you view him as someone who needed to be gotten rid of?
CARDELLINI: It varies. I think it’s one of those things that, like life, is not so black and white. There comes a time when action is taken. And then, there’s a whole other part of you, or maybe a new facet of the story for the future, where you’re like, “Why do you do the things you do?” Hindsight is 20/20.
Did you get to read all 13 scripts ahead of time?
CARDELLINI: No. I met with Glenn and Todd [Kessler] and Daniel [Zelman]. They were in New York, so we were on the phone, and we spoke for hours for our first meeting. They explained the whole arc of the story in the 13 episodes, and even ideas for if it went beyond that, as well. What was so cool about it was that there was this skeleton of a story, or outline of a story, that was so rich that you could only imagine that the facets of the numbers underneath the letters of the outline were going to be so varied and interest, and those would have tangents. It was this extrapolation of this family dynamic, and it was so fascinating and could have gone so many different ways. Filming it, throughout, you did not get scripts ahead of time and you did not get long leads on anything. You knew some of the big things that were going to happen, but some of the smaller intricacies, you learned along the way. I don’t know if that was informed by what was happening on screen for them and what they were seeing, or if there were things that they were keeping from us to watch us discover them. But, there are so many secrets in this show and there are so many layers that how the character develop is that they change so much. Some of those things you knew, and some of them were unknown. It was an interesting process.
Did you feel like you had it figured out, by the end of the first season?
CARDELLINI: No. Funnily enough, as hard as it will be to watch because I’m in it, I’m so excited to watch and see how the guys put the show together. They have ideas beyond what I can imagine, based on the page, because of the way they construct the show. Sometimes they switch things around from what you thought they were in the script. So, I’m excited to see the other people’s work. The actors that I have been able to work with on this show are so phenomenal that I can’t wait to watch what they’ve done on screen and see it put together. The way they put Damages together was fascinating. It was a nail-biter. So, I can’t wait to see how they do it [with this].
Your character has been living a life that the rest of her family isn’t aware of, and the sibling who’s just back in town is already able to see through all of her lies. What is that like to play, when she not only has to deal with somebody else figuring out what’s going on with her, but having to also confront it herself?
CARDELLINI: I think she is in denial of certain things that she is. Like that logline, “We’re not bad people, we just did a bad thing,” sometimes she really believes that she’s a great person, and sometimes she believes that she’s a bad person. She doesn’t know. There’s a part of her that she identifies with, within her family. She has a role within her family that isn’t totally true to who she is, but she doesn’t know the difference because she’s never truly stepped outside of her family. She never cut the apron strings, really. She went away to school for a little while, but she came back home to help her parents, even though she probably had other ideas for herself. It’s one of those things, when you grow up in a family, you start to believe that other people’s wishes for you are your own wishes. Some people go through a rebellious phase, and they separate and understand that they’re not who their family thinks they are. She’s a late bloomer, in that way. She still believes that she is what her family thinks she is, and I think she’s coming to terms with the idea that maybe she doesn’t know who she is.
The family dynamic is really key to this story, and it feels really lived in. Did you have any time, before you started shooting, to work together and find those rhythms?
CARDELLINI: Not too much. The Keys are pretty secluded, in a lot of ways. Getting to the Keys was hard on everybody. Everybody got there staggered and had to try to find places to live. Getting acquainted with that place, if you’ve never been there, was an adjustment. So, I had to get acquainted with that and figure out where I was going to be. Some of our locations where an hour away from other locations. It’s a destination. It’s a place where people go on vacation for a reason because it’s away from it all. It’s close to mainland Florida, but it’s out there. There were times where getting to the grocery store took an hour. At the same time, you’re looking off both sides of the freeway, and off one side is the ocean and off the other side is the bay. It’s a beautiful place, but it was a totally different dynamic. So, we were all there, and we had one meeting and one read-through. We sat in that meeting and talked about how old we were when certain things happened, and we just talked out things. We talked about family dynamics and who we thought we were, and the guys talked about who they thought we were, and we started from there. You would just wait for the scripts, hoping to find out what was going to happen and who you are. Sometimes it backtracks and you’re like, “Woah, that’s why they did that.” It’s an interesting process. It’s different from anything else I’ve ever done.
This is a show that deals with really heavy stuff. Was it hard on you guys to film those scenes?
CARDELLINI: It was fun, in terms of acting with the other actors. Being able to work with Sissy [Spacek], Ben [Mendelsohn], Kyle [Chandler] or Sam [Shepard], they’re so good at what they do and to work with them was so exciting. That part was really fulfilling. Sometimes the elements would be hard because it was so hot and so human. I remember that I was doing a scene in a motel and there were so many mosquitoes that there were literally blood splats on the wall from killing mosquitoes and one of the camera men was in a full blood suit while we were scantily clad. I grew a healthy fear of mosquitoes. Or you’d be out in the sun and fighting the light. There’s a lot of rain that comes out of nowhere. It’s crazy weather, but gorgeous. Where the show is, is a character of the show, and I think that’s a really cool part of the show. I feel like it’s a beautiful place, but also a place where really weird stuff is capable of happening, and has happened. Towards the end of the shoot, there was some pretty heavy stuff. To sustain that level of high-intensity is fun, on one hand, and difficult, on another.
Was it cathartic, when you guys wrapped?
CARDELLINI: I got sick, so I missed the party. We were out in the water, shooting for hours and hours and hours, and we were wet. But it’s a wonderful job and a beautiful place, so there’s nothing to complain about. If you see that place on a boat, it’s just heaven. The waters are gorgeous. You feel like you’re in the Caribbean. It’s fun, but the level of drama is super intense. There are times where it’s about as high stakes as it’s going to be. There’s some stuff that Norbert [Leo Butz] and I got to do, towards the end, that we were just wiped out from afterwards, but it was fun.
Is Season 2 a possibility then?
CARDELLINI: I think it is a possibility. We’ll see what happens. I think it could stand alone, as well.
Were you satisfied with where things ended up, this season, or will people want another season?
CARDELLINI: I’m biased because I know it. I think it depends on people’s reactions to it. I think there are definitely still some unanswered questions, but it concludes. What you are waiting for will be there, but there will still be some unanswered questions and some new discoveries, if there happens to be more seasons.
Bloodline is available at Netflix.